Filtering the noise..

Today, it seems that the world is becoming noisy and chaotic day by day. Not because of any unexpected event or political debacle ( which though keeps happening everyday), but more so due to the consistent, unstoppable noise we are allowing in our life. This noise comes from social media ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), Television, news channels, YouTube videos, Netflix shows, text messages, Gmail or Outlook emails, Zoom or Facetime calls, WhatsApp group updates, sale offers, discount coupons, free subscriptions, loan requests, new deals and what not…..All this marketing and information tsunami bombards us in a gargantuan way!

I wonder if we are ( or have) forgotten to live a calm, serene life. Our life is slowly becoming as if we are living to absorb all this gigantic information created by us for our own disposal. Hardly can we stay away from our cell phone or laptop nowadays. Psychologist have invented a new word for this – ‘Nomophobia’, which means the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact. Did anyone imagine our life would become so much entangled in this web of information and our minds occupied to remain online, 24X7, just that we don’t miss some update or important information? After all mobile technology, or say Iphones were only invented, and brought into market after 2007. and it took few years to get them universalized worldwide. So, roughly, its been just a decade since our life has been caught up by the mobile network.

Even, social media has been there since last 10-15 years only. LinkedIn started in 2003, Facebook in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, (all straight in a row, more of a coincidence I believe) all became ubiquitous in the last decade itself. Internet has been for a while, but since the beginning of 3G, 4G and onset of handheld, touch screen based mobile phones, we completely became connected to the Web. Infact we have become so used to Google, that we call Google as Internet. And even worse, when Google went down few weeks before ( just for an hour or more), people tried to google on Google to know why Google went down! Nothing more can show how dependent our lives have become on the internet, social media and phone technology.

But amidst all this never ending pandemonium of data, I find that our day just gets spent in absorbing the information we are thrown at. We get the news from news channels and news apps. And the news channels have programmed their transmission to send breaking news every hour, which never breaks! The social media wall sends millions of tweets and posts every day, which the advanced data analytics breaks down into whats trending, and what hot in the market. The marketing companies are more than vigilant to keep posting us attractive ads, coupons, discounts, offers consistently as everything is done online these days, including shopping from food to clothes, gadgets to beauty products. These apps are equipped with AI such that if I don’t open or use a particular app for one day, it sends me some of the cutest messages like ‘We miss you’, ‘Hey Foodie, are you hungry’, ‘Hey, its been a day since we last saw you!’. C’mon, we don’t shop everyday, or even eat outside everyday. But these apps and their cutie messages, will make us visit their apps and shop even if we don’t need. That’s capitalism 101 here.

Now, as most of us have seen or faced this chaos everyday, it is difficult to stay away from all this. Ofcourse, we have the option to disable the notifications, or even not use the apps at all. I tried to deactivate Facebook several times. I reduced my YouTube channel subscriptions. But then after a few days, I simply couldn’t avoid to take a glance of whats going on the Facebook Wall, or even checkout a favorite YT channel. I couldn’t sever my greed to visit these shopping apps during festival sale, or even on a particular day like Valentine’s day, just for the offers or discounts. Ofcourse the endless emails or WhatsApp group updates is something not in our control, except to mute them. But again, the problem of losing out of some crucial info or even a friend’s picture makes us dwell in for sometime during the day. Infact, during the coffee breaks, or even rest room breaks, all we do is hang on to our phones and scroll through the social media. We pride ourselves in staying busy every minute, but I wonder if this busyness is of any real importance. Because most of the content is just surfed, and skimmed, which hardly makes any impact in our life.

Hence, this filtering of noise in our life is something of a herculean task now. I do not yet have a answer for this. Many psychologists and tech experts advise to minimize the use of social media and phones, and even follow a ‘No-Phone Day’ on weekends, or Sunday. But the real question, is it even possible now? Has our life become too much entangled in this web of networking? Is there any way to filter out this noise from our life? Does uninstalling apps, or deactivating social media accounts, make our life calmer, better and happier? Is it possible to live almost an isolated life without this swathing world of information age?

I do not have definite answers, but I do know these questions and quest for their answers is what matters more than all the fancy offers or breaking news out there. Our health, our mind, our career, our productivity, and even our relations with our family and friends is dependent on this. I hope we find a balance by filtering this noise and reliving a calm yet productive routine.

The monopoly of social media!

During the 2008 sub-prime crisis, I had seen an interview of an independent stock trader who famously said, “governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world”. 12 years later, I think the time has come to say that “governments don’t rule the world, Social Media rules the world”.

Yes, watching the recent events in the social media world, it seems that the genie has left the bottle. The social media has become stronger and dangerous than ever. Two events which happened during the start of this year signify an alarm for the world. They are the recent change in WhatsApp Terms and Conditions policy, and the banning of Trump on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Even though the latter event might have made most people happy or even they have applauded for this action by social media giants, but many of us have become alarmed over this action.

First of all, the change in Whatsapp policies was something many industry experts saw it coming. After all, Mark Zuckerburg paid $19B for the acquisition of WhatsApp. This wasn’t a philanthropy thing for Facebook. They thought well enough before making that deal. WhatsApp over the years have grown to be the world’s most popular and most downloaded/used app in the world. In India, WhatsApp has partnered with Reliance, which is India’s richest company, to provide payment and retail services. So, when WhatsApp made the changes in its policy, which says that all the data from WhatsApp will be shared to Facebook, which will help their business. How?

Mark Zuckerberg meme generator
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When asked by the senator, Mark answered….So, running ads makes Facebook earns the dollars required to sustain its so big social media platform ( and ofcourse to earn profit, which makes Mark the 5th richest person in the world). But our personal data on Facebook ( which we have selflessly rendered over to Facebook under the silly disguise to make friends and connect with the world) and catering to which relevant ads shown is the main business model of this company. This platform needs data just like cars need fuel to run. Because only with that data, can Facebook show us the relevant ads. That’s why it is said, “Data is the new oil”

Now, with this new policy, our WhatsApp data will also shared to Facebook. And what kind of data will be shared? ( or has already been shared for quite sometime) As per Wired story, The company says it collects user information “to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.”In practice, this means that WhatsApp shares a lot of intel with Facebook, including  account information like your phone number, logs of how long and how often you use WhatsApp, information about how you interact with other users, device identifiers, and other device details like IP address, operating system, browser details, battery health information, app version, mobile network, language and time zone. Transaction and payment data, cookies, and location information are also all fair game to share with Facebook depending on the permissions you grant WhatsApp in the first place.

But its not about the amount of data that these companies are getting access to, but the security of that data is a real concern. The world already knows about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and one of the famous documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix sheds light on why companies like Facebook and WhatsApp do not charge the users. This is because if the product is free, then we are the product being sold! And by this they mean the data of users which they desperately need to run ads and make money. The more the data, the more is the revenue. Simple it is!

But even more worrying than data sharing or data privacy is the concern of how dangerously powerful that these companies have become. Just few days before, they banned the President of United States of America from their platform, indefinitely! This is not some random guy who posted some thing against their rules, but it is the most powerful person in USA, and even in the world to a certain extent. When such an action happens, it shows how powerful these companies have become. Ofcourse, I am not saying that these companies are above law or US president’s power. They took that action only after the President was accused of causing an insurrection and posting messages and videos supporting violent coup against the law. Also, its worth noting that they took this stringent step after Joe Biden was officially confirmed to be the incoming US President.

But what many of us are worrying is the active levers of communication in the hands of these companies. As we see, unlike few years before, when the world got news from newspapers, radio and television, which was edited to make it politically correct. But in today’s world, people get the news and information mostly from social media, which is not edited neither filtered, atleast to some extent. This is the reason why Trump could convince many Americans to elect him. Whatever he tweeted or communicated was never politically correct. But still due to the freedom of speech, his message used to reach his followers.

But now these handful companies have completely cut him off from his fan base. This is interesting because even though its good for the world that Trump has been banned for sometime, which would filter out the noise and chaos created by him, and restore peace in the world for sometime. But this isn’t just about Trump. What if these companies ban some other leader or a person belonging to a certain ideology like communism, socialism or pacifism? The real question is who has given this moral authority to these companies to ban certain people or ideology? Ofcourse, this does not mean that hate speech or violence should be allowed. Definitely not. But the real threat these companies possess is whom do they allow or whom they do not! What if they decide to support a particular ideology which fits their business model? What if they remove content from their platform which favors their competitors or which challenges their business? As mentioned about the perils of social media monopoly in this beautiful article, https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/at-the-mercy-of-big-tech-billionaires-101610547387559.html which questions the readers, “Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg decided that he did not like Narendra Modi’s farm laws or Shashi Tharoor’s tirades against the East India Company — and shut them off.” Or even going ahead, what if these companies try to influence the voters in countries by favoring a particular candidate who falls into ‘friendly category’ to these social media giants?

This is something these companies have to make clear. When it comes to hate speech , racism or violence, its their moral obligation to curtail it from spreading. But it is also equal responsibility to allow all form of ideologies, ideas, thoughts to flow. These companies are expected to be impartial. But unfortunately, they are not. So, after seeing this, I installed Signal which is almost an replica of WhatsApp ( infact its co-founder is the same Brian Acton for both these companies). But Signal is designed with a non-profit, open source model, and hence just like Wiki, it will not be sold to some private company( hopefully) and will not run Ads as well. I am slowly moving towards uninstalling WhatsApp, but due to over-dependence and majority user base ( all of my family and friends use WhatsApp), its going to take some time for everyone to switch over to Signal. Till then, I could not allow my WhatsApp to share my data to my Facebook a/c. So, I took the step (which I wish should have taken before) to delete Facebook and Instagram accounts. This would disable my WhatsApp data to be shared due to non-existence of Facebook account. I hope many of us become aware of this to keep their data safe and secure. Goodbye Facebook! Goodbye Instagram! And Goodbye to WhatsApp soon!

As Evan Greer, deputy director of the digital rights group ‘Fight for the Future’ said “Their business model is surveillance. Never forget that.”

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Rushing through Life!

How technology has created a rush in our life!

The world has changed immensely in the last few years. Everything happens quickly, instantly nowadays. If we want some information, just Google! If we want to connect with someone, just WhatsApp or connect on Facebook with them. If we need something, Amazon is at our service. The physical boundaries on the planet have been surpassed, and no longer any obstacle or any iron curtain can prevent us from connecting with someone.

On one side, when we can have anything at our finger tips, but on the other side, this change has created quite a few problems for us. First, this fast and instant result oriented world has created a deficiency of patience in us. We are slowly losing our power to be patient. Our forefathers had an impeccable sense of patience. They used to wait for years for results to come, or even to get any information. They had to work hard to find that info, and hence, this tested their patience. But we on the contrary, can get that info within seconds, and so we are forgetting the value of patience. This generation seems to live a life where waiting is like waste of time, and when having patience is looked down upon. We want everything to be happened instantly, and hence, we rush our life to get what we want.

But in our natural lifetime, nothing can happen without having patience. We cannot grow up from childhood to adulthood instantly. We cannot get all the education or knowledge in the world immediately. Relationships and bonding cannot form within seconds. All this takes time, and that’s where the importance of patience comes in. But unfortunately, Google, Facebook and Instagram cannot teach us the importance of patience, as they thrive upon the need for urgency, rush hour and fast communication. For them patience is like a deadend!

Then, the next problem we are having is Fear. Yes, I am right. We are becoming more fearful than ever. Because when we rush things out, we tend to lose them quickly as well. As we are getting things instantly, we are no longer enjoying the fruit of the hard work to attain it. Because technology has made it possible for us to keep us away from actually being involved in the process.

Let me give an example. Before mobile phone technology came in, the only way we could reach out to our loved ones were the telephone, or letters. Unlike mobile phones or social media, it was not possible for real time tracking or connecting with them anytime ( 24/7). But our foretathers and generations before used to travel across continents, countries, fight in wars, explore forests and mountains, and still were brave and patient enough to remain away from their family and relatives for a long period of time. But in this generation, we see that we hardly can stay away from calling or texting our loved ones, if they are not at home or away without leaving any message. We can’t even stay away from our phone for more than few hours. Ofcourse, people say that technology was not available in old times, and hence, they had no option but to wait. I agree that we are very fortunate to have all the latest communication modes at our hand, but the side effect of urgent and fast communication has led to a form of conditioning of our mind, that we are losing patience, and becoming fearful if we are not able to reach out to our loved one instantly. That is a problem we are seeing in modern times.

And finally, I see the most concerning problem brought in by technology rush is the instant self-gratification. Its like a genie which has escaped out of the bottle! We make friends within seconds just by sending a friend request. We don’t even know about the other person whom we are sharing our messages and pictures. We see something on Amazon or Flipkart, and we instantly want to buy it. And the best thing is it gets delivered overnight. Google has made our life so simple that we don’t need to remember any facts, or birthdays, or even road maps.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are the universities of self-gratification. We spend a lot of our valuable time in studying in these universities, and we then learn to master the art of self-gratification. It leads us to becoming narcissistic, self-concerned, devoid of patience, fearful of what society thinks of us, and status conscious.

All these attributes are of no use in life. Infact, they are the vices which our forefathers avoided, and which our parents & teachers taught us in school to be careful of.

Hence, even though the modern technology and social media applications have made our life better, simpler & smarter, but this rush and fast paced world impacted by the technology has brought in its own vicissitudes. Even though many things can be done instantly today, but life itself has its own pace. As mentioned before, we cannot change the way our body grows, or how relationships mature. We cannot alter the time it takes for the seasons to change, or even for the human reproduction. Everything takes its own time. We cannot get instant peace of mind using some app, or neither can we attain mastery over a subject by googling over. It needs time, and patience, and hard work. And that is the only way to become proficient at something. Be it becoming an athlete, writer, doctor or even becoming a mother!

Technology has created an illusion that if we go slow, then we stagnate. But this is not true. Everything has its own pace. There is no need to rush or hurry for anything. Its okay if it takes time to learn or get a job or make friends. The technology and apps are designed to work faster, and give instant results. Because they are machines made of circuits. We are not. We are humans, and lets evolve at our own pace. Lets not rush over life, else sooner or later, life will rush away from us!



© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Nerds, Big Bang and the silicon valley!

How nerds and geeks changed the world!

Recently I have been watching the famous ‘The Big Bang Theory’ TV series. I must say that it is one of the best comedy series I have ever watched. Even ‘Friends’, of which I used to be a die hard fan of seems to be less funny as compared to TBBT. Anyways, this post is not intended for any sort of comparison between comedy sitcoms. Rather, I would like to write about the importance of nerds/geeks in the world.

Just like the fictional weirdo, nerdy, intelligent, genius physicist Sheldon Cooper character is elegantly portrayed by real life actor Jim Parsons, the world always have had many similar nerdy folks. However to the large extent these nerds might be laughed at, ignored or even ridiculed by the so called pragmatic self-concerned society, but they cannot deny that these bunch of folks have changed the world. If we just look at the history in science, technology, economics or arts, we see most of the inventions and breakthroughs done by the nerd scientists and engineers. Sir Issac Newton must have been a nerd in the 17th century England. The genius physicist Albert Einstein must have been a nerd in his college days who delved into the wonders of physics, and opened the universe of relativity for us.

Silicon valley is famously known as a valley of nerds. It was started and later expanded by a bunch of young minds like the trio Bill Gates, Bill Joy & Bill Atkinson. Bill Gates, as we all know became the richest nerd in the world after he co-founded Microsoft along with his friend Paul Allen, another nerd. Bill Joy who is lesser known as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is more of a prodigy in programming. This post from Berkeley praises this genius as “Dubbed the “Edison of the Internet” by Fortune Magazine, Bill Joy is one of luminaries of tech. Years before personal computers were being widely used, he created software that would enable the rise of the modern internet…”. And Bill Atkinson is the gifted programmer who along with Steve Wozniak( the geeky genius behind Apple) gave Apple the recognition of being more than just a fruit.

Then, we have the Google founders, Sergei and Larry, who envisioned a world with a web of internet. And adding to that, comes Mark Zuckerberg, another prodigy in programming, who revolutionized the way we live in social life. It is interesting to see that a nerd like Mark, who struggled to be social in his school or college days, came up with the idea of Facebook, a social networking platform. I guess an online social networking platform idea was the least expected from a nerd, but we know, nerds have always surprised the world!

Then, we have the famous ‘PayPal Mafia’ gang which comprised of a bunch of nerds such as Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, Jawed Karim etc. Elon as we all know went on to start world famous companies like Tesla & Space X, while Peter Thiel became the angel investor in Facebook. And the trio ( Steve, Chad and Jawed) went on to start YouTube which was later acquired by Google. This is the power of a group of people who are intelligent, hard working and visionary.

I think the most famous nerd in the world would be Steve Jobs, who was not only a geeky visionary who rode on his imagination ride to change the world with Mac and Iphone, but also garnered the respect, admiration and cult following which nerds usually despise or avoid. Many nerds before Steve Jobs used to either confine themselves to innovating in their labs, or teaching & researching in University like MIT, Harvard or Berkeley. But it was Steve who broke the well accepted image of a nerd, which is generally introverted, shy, and not going after money or fame. But Steve Jobs was the exact opposite. He changed the way the world used to look or treat nerds. He proved that nerds can become famous, rich, and immensely powerful. And we see, Apple is the best example of innovation, and being different!

Independent Thinking - the Maverick Mind
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History shows that whenever a bunch of visionary minds have come together, they have often succeeded to change the world. Silicon valley is the world’s largest group of nerds, geeks and tech enthusiasts. Atleast it started off like this, and maybe things have become more profit oriented today, when Wall Street executives and corporate raiders have invaded the innovative silicon valley into a profit churning machine. But still, the spirit of innovation and passion to change the world runs high among the geeks and techies. Starting from the “Traitorous Eight” to “Paypal Mafia”, the nerds and techies made silicon valley the most famous and revered place on the earth.

Thus, lets hope this spirit of innovation continues in the valley. Even though the companies which were started by young minds who were called nerds in school days, who revered books, technology, comics, video games more than dating girls, or body building, who were mocked as being weirdos by the social world, today we see the entire world is dependent on the technologies and innovations these geeks had started, be it Iphone, Google, Tesla, or Facebook. Hence, I remember some wall street trader had said during the 2008 crisis that “Goldman Sachs rules the world” But he was wrong. Today, its the “Silicon Valley that rules the world!”. And in Steve Jobs words…

Pin on To be a teacher.....

Digital Frankensteins!

Today, I watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”. Its a terrific and also quite alarming documentary. It reminds us as Tristan Harris said, “The social media are becoming ‘Digital Frankensteins!’, steering billions of people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors”.

It is quite true. We see the young generation not only prone to the venomous effects of social media, but also becoming more and more separated from reality. They are becoming slowly a part of virtual reality, in which whatever is seen, heard or read on social media is believed to be for real by the young generation, especially the Gen Z. We see that the Gen Z were born after 1996, and when the kids born in this generation started going to school, that’s when the social media erupted and expanded enormously, and started galloping our social world.

In the last 10 years, the world has changed a lot. Most of the apps and technologies we have become addicted to during the previous decade had been started only a few years back. Like Facebook in 2004, Youtube in 2005, Twitter in 2006, Tumblr in 2007, Whatsapp and Pinterest in 2009, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. We see every year there has been some new entry of social media app, except the 2008 year, ( due to the Great Recession effect, maybe). And soon these apps started dominating our social and personal space as well. The most latest entry is of TikTok in 2016, and which has gained considerable notoriety under the Trump Presidency, due to its sophisticated and super-addictive AI. The last decade was the breeding ground of new fan base for these apps, and now they all have become somewhat “Digital Frankensteins!”. This is because we are so much used to them, and our life is entwined with them on such a massive scale, that if the government decides to shut them down( which would never happen in near future at least), they cannot do it. Just like the big Wall Street banks which had failed in the 2007 recession due to sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the government had to bail them out under the label of “Too Big To Fail”( and the banks made sure that the bail out money went to pay their exiting CEO’s and board members some really hefty severance packages!). Similarly, we can see that these social media giants have become “Too Big To Fail” and their continued dominance will stay undisputed in the near future.

But unlike economy and banks, where our money and thereby livelihood is dependent on the savings we put in bank, or loans we take for our businesses, hence we are dependent on the banking institutions just like they rely on the customers. But in case of social media, atleast we have a remote chance that our lives can still be managed and survived without the social media. This is because there are still some old and credible sources of information and connectivity tools existing. For ex: Radio and Ham had been one of the most reliable info sources before TV and internet ushered in. People used to stay connected to each other besides use of telephone for connectivity.For news, we have the all weather print media, journals, magazines and books which often convey the most authentic and reliable information. We don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with friends. We can do that over the phone, or messaging service. After all, we all have hundreds of Facebook friends, but how many of us really connect with all of them? Do we even care of who is in our list, and do we make some serious effort to stay connected with all of them. The fact is we simply do not have time to spend to stay connected to all of them. We are used to a small group of like minded friends, and we tend to stay socially connected with them.

Same goes with instagram. Do we really care for the likes of our photos and videos we upload on the wall? After initial curiosity, it simply vanishes. Infact, human nature does not care for the repeated likes from our friends, but we slowly start looking at the comments and those friends who have not liked the pic!. Though there have been many positives brought by social media such as YouTube where one can share any video and become famous overnight. Justin Bieber is known to have gained his reputation via YT. Its a great medium for sharing knowledge and talks as well. Even Twitter was a new revolution for those who have amassed millions of followers, and any tweet would create sensation in the world. Trump has been using Twitter as a official tool for his Presidency, and many of his orders and declarations have been communicated to the world via Twitter. All this is terrific, and has changed the mainstream media world.

But slowly, we see that it has made us addictive, and lose sight of the relevant information. As I mentioned, earlier, there used to be only few ( and reliable) sources of info such as Radio, Television and Print media. Later, the new channels replaced the print media, and now we see the social media is replacing all of them. The most important concern on the social media is the complete lack of accountability of the content posted by anyone. Unlike radio or print, which is verified and edited, social media is rarely verified, and so the new world of fake news has emerged. Though the content can be reported, and the owners do take appropriate actions against them, but often it is too late and the content by then has reached millions of people all over the world. There is no way a tool can verify if the information is accurate and up to date. We do not have intelligent machines yet, and hence anything posted on the social media cannot be entirely trusted. Then comes the question, if the content is not verified, not trusted then why do we spend our precious time in scrolling through them?

Infact, there has been so much information ( tons and tons of bytes) created and uploaded everyday that it becomes nearly impossible for humans to decipher and absorb this information, let alone analyze and understand it. When there is too much information, its nothing but chaos!. But this continues because of the very basic fundamental of social media, which is everyone has the liberty to express their opinion or add content on grounds of personal freedom of expression. Yes, and this cannot be denied. I am writing this post due to this freedom and I agree that this is needed for the fresh influx of new ideas and opinions to be injested into the world. Hence, the real challenge is to know the difference between whats right and whats wrong. If we do not allow the social media to share all the content freely, then it will be a world of communsitic media, where everything is censored and restricted, just like it happens in China and erstwhile USSR. We do not want to live in that iron-curtain world again.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with the social media, and its usage in our daily lives as long they remain tools just like radio and TV, to share information, to connect with friends, to get the most recent information, or even to express our opinion about some injustice, or grievance. It is one of the most wonderful mediums we have today. But if that tool becomes complicated enough to intrude in our personal life by making us addicted with incessant notifications , updates, fake news and viral videos, then that’s a problem. If the social media like Facebook, as mentioned in the documentary is creating a digital footprint of our activity, and without our consent selling the data ( or selling us indirectly) to third party companies for advertisements or trying to change our opinion about political endorsements, then that’s a big problem. As its seen that all the social media tools have become powerful enough to predict our life, our decisions, our interests and our future as well. This is where the real problem lies. As long as we have the levers of control, we are okay. But if the levers lie in the hands of few social media giants, then we are in a big mess. This awareness is the true message this documentary has courageously conveyed. We all should appreciate the valor and genuine concern of all the people who left their secure and well-paying jobs in Google, Facebook, Twitter etc to come out and speak about this to the world. It is because of these few brave men and women, that the world is still a humane place to live.

The social dilemma..

Nowadays, the definition of being social is someone who is active on social media. The basic nature of social gathering which makes humans as social animals, have changed from the open, outward social world to a closed, inward social media world. As it normally happens, that with every change, there are unintended outcomes. So does, the world of social media has changed the world of human bonding, particularly love…

Yes, today we see that people are more keen on finding their love, or soulmates online, through social media. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have become the defacto rulers of social media world. And several apps like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid have become the preferred dating apps for the young generation. Gone are the days when people used to look around their friend circles, or family connections for a life partner. Today, the options are plenty and so are its after effects. I personally find these tools to be useful for everyone who wants to make friends, find dates or just hangout/socialize for fun. But these tools have changed the way dating or falling in love used to be before.

As I mentioned, earlier, it used to be a lot different in finding the right partner. The relationship world was much divided based on their culture, religion, work or even ethnic preferences. People from a particular religion or culture could not easily find someone from a completely different religion or culture to date, lest fall in love. Even if they did, it was not easy for them to carry on the relation due to the way society worked back then. For ex: In India, where the marriages are primarily decided by family and hence, love marriages are looked down upon, it wasn’t easy at all to date or even meet someone from different group. But today, fortunately, this does not exist. These tools have revolutionized the world of dating, and marriage as well. Though still, the matrimony sites and dating apps continue to put on filters based on religion, caste, ethnicity etc. But today, we have the choice to discard these non-pragmatic barriers which society imposes, and select the choice of person, from any background as we wish for.

This is a good change brought out by the social media. But what I feel more concerned is the fundamental change of the way we date or even build a relationship. I mean what is happening on the apps is we often try to know about the person based on his social media profile. We tend to believe that whatever he/she has displayed on their walls is the real life. We forget that the pics which are uploaded are edited with numerous fancy filters. We mistaken for the happy pics uploaded on the photo gallery to be of a successful life. We check how many friends they have in their friends list, and based on that number, we define the social quotient of that person. We see how many countries they have visited, where do they eat, and hangout, or which movies and books are their favorites. All this info is easily available on all the social media apps ( this is what makes them attractive for their user base).

Now, the problem is if all this is already known to the person who is looking for dating or making friends, won’t this influence the person’s choice? For ex: If someone has less friends on his friends list, but he is a really nice guy and good at heart. Now these apps doesn’t tell the world about his good nature ( as good qualities cannot be quantified by some algorithm to be converted to some number). Hence, the world will look at him as a socially shy person just because he has less friends as compared to his peers. Further, the girl who might be looking for partner, might even ignore him, based on this pre-condition.

On the other side, if people meet him personally, then there is much higher chance that they might like him, and they can become good friends with him ( which does not mean they have to officially exhibit their friendship status on facebook). Same goes for matchmaking or dating. We tend to fall for the filtered pics, or first class travel destination videos, or even a toned/muscled physique, and wish to make them our life partner. But later do we find after couple of dates, that they are not the right choice for our life.

I remember one scene from the movie “The Terminal” which many of you might have seen. Tom Hanks who performed the role of Viktor Navorski, helps his friend Enrique in exchange of food to get information about the female officer Dolores. Enrique likes Dolores, and is desperate to know what she likes, where does she hangout, whom did she date etc. Victor helps to get this info from Dolores to Enrique, just like facebook does. But the difference is Dolores did not know who is asking about her, and why is someone taking so much interest in her. This is the real secret of relationship. The true beauty in any relationship is that intimacy, bonding and even to some extent uncertainity about the next step. True relationship blossoms when both of them are longing for each other, to know, understand, and even act to share this bonding. It requires a certain degree of social contact.

Like the one in the famous movie “Taxi Driver” when Travis confidently walks in to talk to Betsy. Betsy doesn’t know anything about Travis, and still Travis manages wonderfully to convince her to take her out for a date. This is the real social skill, which comes by real contact. I wonder if facebook would have been there at that time, and if some Travis who is just a taxi driver sends a friend request to Betsy, how much is the probability that Betsy would go out with Travis for a coffee, based on the online request? You know the answer I bet.

Taxi Driver – Travis and Betsy meet

To know the person in real life, by observing their actions, how they behave, how they take decisions,how they react to certain situations is what glues the thread of affection together between them. This cannot happen through an app or website. And this cannot happen, if both of them already know a lot of info about each other from their facebook profile. The ironical coincidence is the movie “The Terminal” was released in 2004, and it was the same year when facebook was launched. It was as if the days of innocent thrill to go after the person, that desperate desire to know about them, and impress them are a part of history now. Today all the information is at the fingertips, and handy but at the cost of lack of innocence, intimacy and curiosity for each other. And Covid has made even difficult for us, when moving out of the house is avoided by most, and so the only way for relationship to build or maintain are through these apps. Facebook, Snap are getting richer but the quality of relationships and bonding is getting poorer.

Thus, I feel our parents or grandparents generations were a lot happier than ours, as they did enjoy the thrill, the excitement to meet someone, to demonstrate the social skills to socialize and even impress the one they loved. Now, what remains is the fast paced like, share, comment, subscribe based networking, facebook wall dependent profiling, and painstakingly time consuming filtered selfies and pictures to share our happy go lucky faces to the world. I hope that the good old days of meeting in person, sharing the joys and sorrows of life ( and not pics and chats) with each other, and then falling in love to remain life long partners still remain in my generation ( Millennial and Gen Z). Lets end this post just like the happy ending between Enrique and Dolores…..

The Terminal – Enrique proposes Dolores